Palace Malice rules in Belmont
Palace Malice rules in Belmont
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice earned his first stakes win in style on Saturday when holding off the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners to take the 145th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes under jockey Mike Smith by 3 1/4 lengths. The bay colt actually scored just his second victory, following a 3 1/2-length maiden win at Saratoga last August, for trainer Todd Pletcher when finishing 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:30 3/5.
"It's the mother of all great moments, I'll tell you that," Dogwood Stable's Cot Campbell enthused. "I'm proud for Dogwood and for my great partners...and I'm proud for Aiken S.C....they'll be dancing in the streets, so proud. And I'm proud of Todd, one of the greatest trainers of all time, and Mike Smith, one of the great riders.
"And for the horse! The horse, the horse, I'm SO proud of him!
"I said before, if he has an absence of bad luck, we'll be all right. We're not asking for any breaks, we just don't want any breaks against us. When I saw the :46 go up there, I was kind of hoping for :48, but gosh he seemed to be going great and Mike went to school on him last time, knew what to do.
"This victory is way up there, because I'm in the twilight of my career, certainly, to put it euphemistically, and it ranks way up there. It's a heck of a thing. It means everything, the tradition of it. I've been in racing a long time and this is good stuff right here."
"It's just incredible. I feel like I'm floating, man. I'm just in awe right now," Smith grinned. "The game plan was mapped out, and it really went to the game plan. We were laying third on the outside of Oxbow, like we wanted. At the three-eighths, Gary (Stevens on Oxbow) said, 'Go on, little brother. You're moving better than me.' And we went on with it, man."
Palace Malice skipped the Preakness after a tiring 12th-place finish as the early pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby. The bay sophomore sported blinkers for the first time in the Run for the Roses, but they were absent from his equipment for the Belmont.
"It was the blinkers (that made him keen in the Kentucky Derby)," Smith stated. "(Taking them off) made all of the difference. Three jumps out of the gate, I felt really good."
Giving his sire, Curlin, a classic winner from his first crop to race, Palace Malice returned $29.60, $11.20 and $6.70 at 13-1.
"I kept saying I know there's a big (race) there; I felt like he had a big one in him," Pletcher said. "I kept waiting for it to materialize in the afternoon. He got close a couple of times but didn't quite get it done.
"It pretty much went in the early part the way we anticipated it would in terms of where we were positioned. He was able to get him in a nice comfortable rhythm and travel along, pretty quickly, considering the distance, but he looked like he was in a good comfortable rhythm and that was the main focus.
"It was an emotional win for me because the Dogwood connection," he added. "They supported me from the very beginning and to win a big race for them is really gratifying."
The early pace was quick for the marathon event, with Frac Daddy and Freedom Child duking it out on the front end through splits of :23 and :46 3/5. The pace took its toll on Frac Daddy, who began backing up as Preakness hero Oxbow moved up to challenge Freedom Child on the lead through three-quarters in 1:10 4/5.
Palace Malice, meanwhile, was keeping in contact with the top pair and began his run rounding the turn after a mile in 1:36 2/5. Freedom Child had dropped out of it by this point, leaving Oxbow to try for a second straight classic victory, but Palace Malice kept motoring to pass that one in the lane and trudge home a winner.
"I'm so proud of this colt. I thought I was dead midway down the backside. They were suicidal fractions and he never got any break," jockey Gary Stevens said of Oxbow. "Mike (Smith) rode a superb race. I got him settled going into the first turn for about five jumps. I believe it was Mike who put a tad of pressure on my colt to get him running. I kind of had to turn his head loose and let him go about his business. I didn't want to fight with him. We were rocking down the backside. I looked at the two horses inside of me and they weren't going to give it up. I just tried to make Oxbow as happy as I could.
"Midway around the turn, I said, 'Well, maybe.' But I have ridden long enough to know that he was going to walk home the last quarter of a mile. Going into the far turn, I didn't think he would have hit the board. To finish second, I am really surprised. He galloped out after the race like you wouldn't believe. I'm really proud of him."
Oxbow got the best of Kentucky Derby victor Orb by 1 3/4 lengths, with Incognito taking fourth by a half-length over Revolutionary on the wire.
"He just ran OK," remarked Shug McGaughey, who trains Orb. "He made a good run around the turn, but we had given up so much. The speed horses held all up front and we just couldn't catch them.
"I don't think he got tired. He put a pretty good run in to get to where he was, and those horses just weren't coming back. If they had come back, we'd have been fine. They shook loose and we were just too far back to catch them.
"It's been fun," he added about his Triple Crown run with the Derby winner. "I've got no problems with anything. Everything's fine with me. I just wish we had showed a little better performances in the Preakness and the Belmont."
"I thought I had a perfect trip," mused Orb's jockey, Joel Rosario. "I saw they were going pretty quick up front, and he was handling everything fine. I moved him to the outside like he's done before, but in the end I couldn't even make it up to second.
"At a mile and a half, they are all going to get a little tired, but he was starting to get late. I felt when he was moving, I was pretty confident like in the Kentucky Derby, but maybe it was the mile and a half, or maybe he was just tired."
Unlimited Budget, Overanalyze, Vyjack, Golden Soul, Will Take Charge, Giant Finish, Midnight Taboo, Freedom Child and Frac Daddy completed the order of finish.
Palace Malice opened his career with a second going five furlongs at Belmont last July and broke his maiden next out on August 4 at Saratoga. Pletcher put the Kentucky-bred on the shelf for the rest of the year, saddling him for a runner-up finish against optional claiming rivals in his January 19 sophomore bow. The bay made his stakes bow in the Risen Star, just missing in third by a half-length, and suffered his first off-the-board effort when seventh in the Louisiana Derby on March 30.
Palace Malice rebounded in his next start, just missing by a neck in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and then lined up in the Kentucky Derby. With Saturday's win, he now boasts a 2-3-1 mark from eight career starts.
Bred by W. S. Farish, Palace Malice has more than earned back his purchase price having now banked $871,135 lifetime. He sold for $25,000 as a Keeneland September yearling prior to coming to Dogwood as a $200,000 Keeneland April two-year-old.
Palace Malice is the first stakes winner out of the stakes-winning Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes scorers Maya's Storm and Jumpifyoudare. His third dam is actually the granddam of Grade 1 victor Rail Trip, and farther back this family has also produced English champion sprinter Flirting Around.
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